Saag Paneer | Spinach Curry

Saag paneer is a delicious, easy 30-minute vegetarian spinach curry recipe with paneer in the tastiest sauce.

Saag Paneer translates to “spinach cheese” in English. “Saag” refers to the spinach (or greens) in Hindi and “paneer” refers to the Indian cheese used in the dish. It is a bright, fresh and quick-cooking recipe (compared to many curries that are slowly simmered for hours) and I guarantee you’ve never seen three small children inhale spinach so fast.

If you love classic Indian recipes, you must also try my almost-famous Chai Tea, Butter Chicken, Aloo Gobi and Chicken Korma recipes. Don’t forget the homemade Butter Naan!

Easy Saag Paneer Spinach Curry recipe

Saag Paneer is a healthy vegetarian curry from Northern India that literally translates to mean “Greens-Cheese”.

Saag Paneer is a vegetarian dish from Indian cuisine that consists of spinach (saag) and paneer, a type of Indian cheese. The spinach is cooked with a blend of spices, including ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, and garam masala, and is then blended into a smooth puree. The paneer is cubed and added to the spinach puree, where it absorbs the flavors of the spices and becomes tender and creamy.

Saag Paneer is typically served with rice or Indian bread such as naan, chapathi or roti. It is a nutritious and flavorful dish that is rich in iron and protein and is a popular vegetarian option in Indian restaurants worldwide.

Onions and spices in frying pan.

Gather Your Ingredients

Before we start making mouthwatering saag paneer, let’s gather all the yummy ingredients you need. Get your apron on and let’s do this!

  • Spinach: you can use fresh or frozen spinach (just pour boiling water over the frozen kind to make it ready to go) or substitute kale, Swiss chard, the tops from a bunch of beets, or mustard greens.
  • Ghee: if you’re not familiar with it, ghee is just butterfat. Butter is actually made up of about 20% water plus milk solids. To make ghee, butter is boiled and the milk solids are removed, leaving a toasty, delicious golden oil. The grocery stores in my area are well stocked with ethnic foods, so I have it on hand – but you can substitute butter or your favourite cooking oil.
  • Onions: as with many indian curries, the onions in saag paneer are cooked down to golden and ultra soft. This serves as the naturally-sweet counterpoint of a spiced dish.
  • Fenugreek: this seed, also called methi, is only spice ingredient that warrants explaining. It has a distinct, pungent flavour that is a big component of British and North American “curry powder”. So if you can’t find fenugreek, use the curry powder (different from garam masala) you can get at any North American grocery store.  You could alternatively add a handful of fresh fenugreek leaves with the greens.
  • Cubed paneer: which you can get in the fancy cheese section of any grocery store these days, but see above for substitutions.
  • Cream: full-fat yogurt or sour cream are acceptable stand-ins, this provides a subtle creaminess to balance a veg-forward flavour.
  • Lemon juice: hits the final flavour point of the spicy-sweet-tangy triangle that makes this dish so irresistible.
  • Ginger, garlic, cumin seeds and turmeric: all straightforward flavour-building pantry staples. (I freeze ginger and minced garlic so it’s always ready to go!)

Can’t Find Paneer? Here are the Best Substitutes

There are lots of perfectly-excellent substitutions for paneer (or you can make your own with my simple Homemade Paneer recipe). 

Interestingly, paneer is made exactly like ricotta, just strained of more liquid until firm. Strain it in cheesecloth or a clean dish towel to remove excess moisture and ricotta easily stand in for paneer.

Halloumi or feta also make good excellent swaps for paneer. For either, start with half the quantity (they’re heavier and saltier, so you’ll want a higher greens-to-cheese ratio).

To use feta, just nestle it on top of the finished dish and cover pan to warm through. ⁠

Stirring spinach into saag paneer.

How to Make Saag Paneer: Step-by-Step Instructions

Here are the step-by-step directions for preparing this easy saag paneer. (PS. this recipe was recently featured by the Toronto Star in “Dishes That Kids Will Ask For Again and Again“!):

  1. Place frozen spinach in a blender or food processor, drizzling it with the boiling water as you go so it wilts and you can fit it all in. Process until very finely chopped, but not pureed. Set aside.
  2. Heat ghee or butter in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add chopped onion and half the salt; cook, stirring often, until very soft and golden. Reduce the heat if onions are browning – low and slow is the goal.
  3. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the spices. In go the turmeric, cumin, and fenugreek powder and cook for 1 minute more.
  5. Stir in the spinach, bring to a simmer, then add cream or yogurt, lemon juice, and remaining salt.
  6. Gently stir in paneer and heat through.

That’s it! By following these simple steps, you’ll have a delicious and comforting saag paneer ready to enjoy.

Tips and Tricks for the Best Saag Paneer Ever

The biggest secret to Indian cooking that I have discovered is patience.

You need to resist the urge to toss everything in together at the same time – the magic happens in stepwise fashion.

  1. Really take your time with the onions – they should be caramelized, not browned or just softened. This step alone makes or breaks a curry.
  2. Then add the garlic and ginger. Then the spices. Everything gets its turn in the hot oil (which is not used in particularly modest amounts – the fat makes a big difference to the flavour).
  3. All throughout, you need to season it well. A curry without enough salt will simply not taste good.

How to Serve Saag Paneer

This is an easy and deliciouscozy and healthy lunch or dinner. You can garnish it with fresh cilantro (coriander leaves), limes, microgreens, or thinly-sliced serrano chile if you like.

Basmati rice, naan or chapati (a.k.a. roti) are great accompaniments.

You could add a simple salad of tomato and onion dressed with lemon and olive oil. The tomatoes and citrus add vitamin C which helps the body to absorb more iron from the naturally-iron-rich greens.

For a bigger meal, add an Indian Cucumber Yogurt Salad on the side.

Adding lemon juice to saag paneer.

FAQs

What is the Difference between Saag Paneer and Palak Paneer?

Saag Paneer and Palak Paneer are nearly identical dishes, but Palak specifically means spinach. Saag Paneer may use spinach and/or other similar dark, leafy greens. Mustard greens are a traditional option for Saag, too, but less easily found in North American grocery stores. 

In my Saag Paneer recipe, I have used all spinach, or any combination of spinach, kale, Swiss chard, the tops from a bunch of beets, and even a handful of broccolini. Every variation I’ve tried has been excellent. It turns out to be a great way to clear out the crisper drawer.

What Does Paneer Taste Like?

Paneer is a mild, milky fresh, firm cheese made simply by boiling whole milk and curdling it with lemon juice or vinegar. Once the curds and the whey have separated, you strain and press it into a block.

The result is a creamy, but not-too-rich, block with a subtle tang and nice, bouncy texture.
Commonly referred to as Indian cottage cheese, paneer is a beautiful canvas for all kinds of bold Indian flavours.

Other Super-Popular Indian Recipes You Don’t Want to Miss:

Easy Saag Paneer Spinach Curry Recipe

Saag Paneer | Spinach Curry

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Servings 4
Main Course
Indian
Keyword Paneer spinach curry, Saag Paneer

Ingredients
 
 

  • 1 lb frozen spinach (or swap in any leafy green vegetable)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 4 tbsp ghee or butter
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 inch piece of ginger finely minced or grated
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp fenugreek powder or curry powder
  • 3 tbsp cream or yogurt
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp salt or more, to taste
  • 12 oz paneer or drained ricotta in 1/2 inch cubes

Instructions
 

  • Place frozen spinach in a blender or food processor, drizzling it with the boiling water as you go so it wilts and you can fit it all in. Process until very finely chopped, but not pureed. Set aside.
  • Heat ghee or butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add chopped onion and half the salt; cook, stirring often, until very soft and golden. Reduce the heat if onions are browning – low and slow is the goal.
  • Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the turmeric, cumin and fenugreek powder and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the spinach, bring to a simmer, then add cream or yogurt, lemon juice and remaining salt. Gently stir in paneer and heat through.

Video

Notes

Substitutions for cream: Instead of whipping cream, you can use thick greek yogurt or coconut milk. Just don’t swap in regular milk or half-and-half cream, as the acid will make it curdle.
A trick to make storebought paneer tastier: commercial paneer can vary widely in how much salt and flavor it has. Take a taste. If it tastes bland, try this flavor booster: cube the paneer and saute it first in a tablespoon or two of melted butter or ghee. Sprinkle with a little salt as it cooks. Transfer it to a plate while you finish the recipe in the same pan. 

Nutrition

Calories: 466kcalCarbohydrates: 11gProtein: 17gFat: 41gSaturated Fat: 25gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 107mgSodium: 692mgPotassium: 462mgFiber: 4gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 13467IUVitamin C: 9mgCalcium: 575mgIron: 3mg
Keyword Paneer spinach curry, Saag Paneer

Last Updated on June 13, 2023 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD

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Mel
Mel
9 months ago

5 stars
New family fav! You’re so right, the kids inhaled it. Couldn’t even believe my eyes ahhahah. It was really delicious for us grown ups too 🙂

Erin W
Erin W
10 months ago

4 stars
I made this tonight, and the family loved it. I found the paneer a bit bland, and way to add more flavor? It could be the paneer I bought? Thanks!

Kelly Fowler
Kelly Fowler
10 months ago

Have you ever tried to use coconut milk instead of the cream?

Erin
Erin
11 months ago

5 stars
Such a great recipe! So easy and very tasty! A great way to get your veggies in

om kumar
1 year ago

Lovely recipe. I have tried many many of your recipes and they all turn out lovely! My kids used to love only restaurant North Indian dishes. Being a South Indian, I could never capture that. But with your recipes, my kids are enjoying home food 😊 Thank you!!

Giftbasketworldwide
2 years ago

Thank you for sharing this delightful recipe. I can hardly wait to try it.

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